AS Chieffy Caligdong made his United Football League comeback, the shifty winger also marked the first step in his bid to return to the national team.
Sidelined for nine games after fracturing his right foot in the middle of February, the 31-year-old booter saw action for a few seconds in stoppage time of Green Archers United’s 4-2 win over the Army on Tuesday.
The former Azkals skipper said he isn’t rushing things, but this early has rated himself “sixty percent” fit and believes he can still make it in time for the Asian Football Confederation Challenge Cup set late May if given an opportunity by Azkals coach Thomas Dooley.
“Hindi ko minamadali yung Azkals. Alam ko marami pang tournaments,” Caligdong told Spin.ph.
“Kailangan ko maging fit, mentally and physically, para makabalik sa team as soon as possible,” added the former Azkals star, who missed three friendlies and a bunch of training sessions.
“Sa tingin ko makakahabol pa ako sa Challenge Cup, kung mabibigyan ako ng chance to train with the team.”
Once he gets back into tip-top shape, Caligdong would also have to face stern competition for his natural left-wing spot, where teenagers Curt Dizon and Daisuke Sato, as well as Patrick Reichelt have shone recently.
At the Emperador Stadium on Tuesday, Caligdong had barely broken a sweat when the referee blew the final whistle, but the former Azkals star walked off the pitch with a broad smile.
“Happy ako na nakabalik na ulit sa field at makalaro kasama teammates ko,” Caligdong said. “Nakapagpahinga ako at naka-recover ng maayos.”
Caligdong felt mixed emotions when he sat on the sidelines for two months.
“Malungkot, pero masaya kasi yung spirit ng team na gusto manalo ng team, nandun pa rin,” he said of the sixth-running Archers, who went on a four-game winning streak in the latter part of his absence.
He expects more playing time with the Archers starting in their next game next week.
“Yun yung inaasahan ko kasi kailangan ko bumalik para sa last round.”